One of the things I like best about the Hudson Valley Textile Project is the true community nature of it. And catching up with your neighbors is always rewarding. Writing about our earliest collaboration on the Studio Yarn Project of 2017 made me pick up the phone and check out what she’s up to this winter. Winter is always a little slow on a seasonal dairy farm, if one calls twice daily feeding, in-every-kind-of-high-peaks weather, slow. Shannon was excited about a new bale feeding system that might save them some time and muscle, while at the same time keeping the dairy sheep fleeces acceptably clean of vegetable matter. “VM”, as it is known, is a big problem for gently scoured farm yarns. Traditional feeding methods leave the ewes pushing under a rack of hay with all the chaff simply dropping down onto the fleeces. That chaff only comes out when dissolved with harsh chemicals, not in the softer washes of local mill scouring. It is so disappointing to run your hand across a lovely soft fabric (knit or woven) and feel the scratch of a bit of chaff. Blue Pepper’s solution is “round bale grazing” which allows the sheep to feed off of big round bales while not pushing into, or under, the bales. Shannon seemed quite impressed so far with how it was working as the ewes, (or the ladies) munch their way through 3 round bales every few days.
The Ladies are all bred for lambing April 1st 2020, with shearing sometime around March 1st. The newly shorn ewes start a new regimen of barn time, out of the weather, and an increased organic grain ration as the unborn lambs start growing in earnest about a month out from lambing. Shannon is offering new lamb tours of Blue Pepper as part of the Farm to Needle Knitting Retreat taking shape at the Bark Eater Inn in Keene, NY. Set for April 17-19, Meghan Kirkpatrick is planning a weekend of events for knitters, including the new lambs at Blue Pepper. It would be worth going just to hear again that amazing little chuckle that the new moms use to speak to their newborns…. a kind of chuckling grunt full of tenderness, and that you never hear otherwise. Just thinking about it makes me miss my Corriedales.
The retreat will be an opportunity for checking out Blue Pepper yarns, but you can also order directly from Shannon. She’s got her lovely wool-alpaca blend yarn available in both worsted weight and bulky, and each is available in 4 different natural colors. She’s got a dark, dark brown, a grey, a white and a paler brown/white twist. All of it is in 100 gram skeins at $20 each. Usually available at her local summer farmer’s market, Shannon is happy to ship her wool if you contact her through her email, or through Instagram @BluePepper. Blue Pepper is also looking for a farm intern for the 2020 season. Information can be viewed at the Good Food Jobs link below.
Of course, catching up has its own rewards. Shannon and I are getting together towards the end of the month for a sewing day. We both have a little handwoven local wool yardage to play with and are planning on the York Pinafore as a good project for both of us. We’ll take pictures!